When people talk about fall color, they think about bright yellows, oranges and reds lighting up grand trees like maples, hickories and oaks. A visitor to our Garden will certainly see these brilliant trees and many others. This year, the autumn colors are gradually progressing through the landscape, lighting up a tree here and there. Last week the devil’s walking stick was on fire for Halloween, today it is fading into the landscape. This week, the Chinese pistache is ablaze in vibrant orange. Next week, look for the black gums to turn. It is perhaps a little less dramatic than the mountain coloration, but the long season is very delightful for regular visitors or residents of the Garden.
As I sit here atop of Baker Overlook, I can clearly see there is more to “fall color” than just some bright trees. People often forget there are many perennials and shrubs that are very interesting this time of year. From flowers to berries to foliage, these plants share some interesting colors.
At the north end of the overlook, where the ramp welcomes visitors to this little hillside, the green foliage of ferns and shrubs stand guard. But the observant pedestrian will notice a little off to the left and further up the ramp are sprinkles of bright yellow coloring thanks to the leopard plant. A miniature canopy of the bright daisy-like flowers rises on stalks above the glossy green round leaves hugging the ground. A warming ray of autumn sunlight really makes these flowers glow.
Further along the path the intrepid walker will find a great vignette of colors. First, a purple billow of asters catches the eye as the plant spills onto the steps. This contrasts very nicely with a dark green background of wax myrtles and other shrubs. The sun catches the witch-hazel on the right, highlighting its chartreuse leaves tinged with yellow on the edges as they start to turn for the fall. Overhead, the sunlight brightens the burnt-red leaves of the dogwood. This subtle combination of colors is a delightful discovery that inspires further attention to the colors of the garden.
On the south side of the hill, mass plantings provide sweeps of fall colors. The blossoms of the bluestar flower are long gone, but the feathery leaves are turning a wonderful green-gold to gold color. Flecks of red and blue dot the hillside as two salvias, “Raspberry Royale” and “Black and Blue” continue to bloom as the weather cools. The upright silver foliage of the switch grass and the crooked purple-flowering stems of the Mexican sage are a nice combination. To compete with all this, the lemon marigolds have to put all their energy into making their flowers a bright yellow. They succeeded.
The observant eye can discover more autumn colors including the bright berries of the linden viburnums, the waxy yellow of the Chinaberry across the road or the clear orange of a still blooming lantana. Of course, if you are really observant, you can find a little yellow dandelion hiding near the top of the hill, avoiding the gardeners. Find me if you can and enjoy the colorful display along the way.